Children get a special treat

Sarah Smellie
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Nominated authors read at A.C. Hunter Children’s Library

Atlantic Book Awards volunteer Laura Bruijns and reading attendee Xavier Pierson sells books at the A.C. Hunter Children’s Library. — Photo by Sarah Smellie/Special to The Telegram

It was a thrilling day for the kids at the A.C. Hunter Children’s Library Saturday.

They met Janet McNaughton, author of “Dragon Seer’s Gift,” who was on hand for a reading presented by the Atlantic Book Awards and Festival.

As the reading finished up, a small group of kids who had the book in school waited around nervously for McNaughton’s autograph. Though she’s been writing for children and young adults for 10 years, McNaughton was still surprised and flattered by the attention.

“My books are used a lot in schools, so I have a perpetual readership,” she says, “but I didn’t expect that to happen.”

“Dragon Seer’s Gift,” a fantasy novel set in contemporary St. John’s, on Mullock Street, is a finalist for The Bruneau Family Children’s/Young Adult Literature Award. The other finalists are Andy Jones’s book, “Jack and the Manger,” and Susan M. MacDonald’s science fiction novel, “edge of time.”

The Bruneau Family Children’s/Young Adult Literature Award is one of two Newfoundland Book Awards being presented this year in concert with the Atlantic Book Awards, which cover nine categories of Atlantic Canadian writing from historical writing to excellence in illustration.

All of the finalists read from their works at a crowded and intimate gathering at the library Saturday.

“It’s so fantastic to be nominated,” said McNaughton. “It means I’m doing something right.”

For Susan M. MacDonald, the nomination is extra special.

“This is my first published book,” she said. “It’s the first award I’ve ever been nominated for.”

The nomination even got her some special advice from Neil Gaiman, famed author of the “Sandman” graphic novel series.

“(Gaiman) does a lot for charity, and my husband had bid on this prize which was supposed to be tea for two in New York with Neil,” she said. “Well, it turned into dinner for four in Minneapolis with Neil, and I gave him a copy of my book and told him that I was nominated for this award. He was very positive and supportive, and spoke to me very seriously about what I needed to do to be a writer and to be taken seriously.”

Jones said he’s thrilled the nomination for “Jack and the Manger,” his take on the nativity story, will highlight his publisher, the St. John’s based Running the Goat Books and Broadsides.

“I’m a performer. I’m not really from this world,” he said. “I really like telling stories to kids a lot, so I just brought that into print. But I’m very happy for the publisher, and that the nomination will help the sales of her books and keep her going.”

The winner of The Bruneau Family Children’s/Young Adult Literature Award will be announced this Thursday at the Atlantic Book Awards ceremony at the LSPU Hall. This is the first year the Atlantic Book Awards ceremony will be held outside of Nova Scotia.

The ceremony will follow a week of Atlantic Book Awards and Festival events held concurrently in the Atlantic provinces.

On Tuesday, the nominees for the Ches Crosbie Barristers Fiction Award, also part of the Newfoundland Book Awards, will gather at The Ship for a reading that begins at 9 p.m. In the running for that award is Patrick Warner, for his dramatic novel “double talk;” Gerard Collins, for his Stephen Leacock-inspired short story collection, “Moonlight Sketches;” and Kevin Major, for his historic novel “New Under The Sun.” The Tuesday night reading at The Ship is a Newfoundland Book Award tradition.

Beginning at noon Wednesday, Nova Scotia writer Frank Macdonald will be at the LSPU Hall, as part of the Lunch at the Hall series. He’ll be reading from his book, “a possible madness,” which is nominated for the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction. The Lunch at the Hall events are typically learning sessions aimed at artists, so Macdonald will follow his reading with a question-and-answer session.

Also on Wednesday, Mack Furlong of CBC’s “Radio One will host a panel discussion at the Fat Cat featuring the nominees for the Best Atlantic-Published Book Award. This unique award recognizes both the author and the publisher, looking at both the content and the presentation of the book. The nominees are Chris Benjamin and Nimbus Publishing, for “Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada;” Doug Underhill and Goose Lane Editions, for “Salmon Country;” and Trudy Morgan-Cole and Breakwater Books, for “That Forgetful Shore.”

For a complete list of events, see the Atlantic Book Awards website at

Organizations: The Bruneau Family Children, Library Saturday.They, The Ship CBC Radio One Fat Cat Goose Lane Editions

Geographic location: A.C. Hunter Children, Newfoundland, Mullock Street New York Minneapolis Nova Scotia.The Nova Scotia Atlantic Canada

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